How To Register With The Health System In India

The Indian government has prioritised healthcare over recent decades, establishing a universal healthcare system and state medical insurance, and the system is continuing to develop under a new scheme, colloquially known as Modicare. However, the system is still overstretched and suffers from a number of limitations, including overcrowding and poor patient outcomes. As a result, many expats who are resident in the country opt for private health cover. We will look at some of your options below.

How does the Indian state health insurance system work?

The public healthcare system offers universal care that is free at the point of delivery, but in practice, most Indians end up using the private sector, in which quality of care can vary considerably. Many expats prefer to take out international health insurance during their stay in India.

The federal states govern healthcare, including regional hospitals, clinics and national hospitals, and health insurance itself.

There are a number of national health insurance plans, which are still currently in place, despite the introduction of a new scheme. These are outlined below:

• National Health Insurance Program (Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana/RSBY) – this was founded in 2007 and is governed by the Ministry of Health; it is designed to provide insurance to those below the poverty line

• Employees State Insurance (ESI) – this covers organised private sector workers (around 55 million people), and was designed for organisations with more than 10 in every 12 employees whose monthly wage does not exceed Rs21,000; the majority of employed expats fall under ESI

• Central Government Insurance Scheme – this covers central government agents and retirees (around three million people)

There are also several federal schemes local to particular regions.

There are a number of national health insurance plans in place in India.

The government announced in 2018 that it would be introducing a new, fully comprehensive health insurance scheme, colloquially known as Modicare. This will presumably be open to expats, but it is advisable to check on the progress of the new scheme.

If you are employed and making contributions into the national insurance scheme, then you should be able to access public sector healthcare if you choose. Contributions into Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) are compulsory. Your employer should register you with the system, but make sure that they have done so, as some expats have reported finding that they are not in fact registered with ESIC.

Under the ESIC, you will have to pay 5% of your income, in order to be covered for ESI – 4% will come from you and 1% from your employer. However, India has reciprocal agreements with some other countries, which mean that you will be able to keep making social security contributions into schemes in your home nation and will not have to pay twice. In this case, you are known as an ‘excluded employee.’ Countries include some European nations, including Norway, Germany and France, as well as Australia. The UK and the USA are not included in these arrangements.

Finding a GP in India can be quite challenging, and some expats report that it is advisable to rely on word of mouth from colleagues and friends. Some also recommend medical reference sites, such as Practo/Credihealth or Lybrate. You can also check that your local practice is listed on the Indian Medical Registry. It is mandatory for a doctor to register either with the Medical Council of India or with the State Medical Council. It is as well to check, because there have been some reports of fake doctors ‘treating’ patients and causing damage. If you need your doctor’s registration number, you can find it on your prescription slip.You can also get the registration number from the State Medical Council.

Once you have registered with a GP, it is advisable to take your insurer’s details with you, in case you have upfront costs that you will need to claim back. Make sure you keep any receipts from your doctor and pharmacist.

Similarly, it is advisable to rely on word of mouth to find a local dentist. You will need to have a dental policy or pay out of pocket. Even if you have a policy, then you will probably need to pay up front and then claim reimbursement from your provider. India is a destination for dental tourism and you may wish to shop around the various private dental clinics.

You can also sign up with Mediclaim, a range of policies that are provided by competing private insurers, but this only covers very basic treatment. There are a number of comparison sites on the net that give prices and details of Mediclaim policies.

Finding a GP in India can be quite challenging, but there are medical reference sites available that could help.

How much does private health insurance in India cost?

The private sector in India constitutes 74% of hospitals and 40% of hospital beds. It is usually of high quality, particularly in large cities, and high tech. Even if you are covered by ESIC, waiting times can be long and conditions in public hospitals can be of a lower standard, so you may wish to consider comprehensive private insurance or top-up cover to plug any cost gaps. If you are not covered by any form of state insurance, you will need to take out private cover.

How much private cover will cost you depends on factors such as your age and any pre-existing conditions, as well the kind of package you opt for – obviously, a more expensive insurance package will give you a more extensive range of treatment and facilities.

As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance, it is very difficult to give an accurate estimate of how much this might cost you, without knowing the full details of what coverage you require. However, as a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40-year-old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected. If you want your coverage to include the US, the premium could increase to almost double this amount.

How To Look After Your Mental Health In India

India is a fascinating place, but living and working there can be challenging. Western expats report high levels of culture shock, due in part to witnessing the extent of poverty in the country. As well as this, the labyrinthine Indian bureaucracy and the overcrowding in the cities can make India feel a little overwhelming. It is therefore important, when visiting India, to protect your mental health, which we will look at below.Mental illness accounts for a high percentage of the disease burden in India. Around 197 million people are estimated to have mental illnesses in the country, including 45 million with depression and a similar number suffering from anxiety-related disorders.

The Lancet, a medical journal, reports that one in seven Indian citizens were affected by mental illness in 2017. The World Health Organisation (WHO) puts this figure even higher, suggesting that one in five Indian citizens suffer from depression. They also note that substantial variations exist between states relating to the burden from different mental illnesses. The WHO predicts that by 2020 around 20% of the Indian population will suffer from mental health conditions, and that the country is undergoing a mental health emergency, which will cost the economy more than $1tn in lost productivity over the 2020s.

There is still a stigma around mental health in the country. Although many Indians demonstrate an awareness of mental health, it is often viewed negatively. This means that take-up of mental health provision among Indian citizens can be low. As an expat, you may find issues with your workplace should you suffer from a mental health condition, although some Indian companies will demonstrate understanding.

There is still a stigma around mental health in India, so if you are an expat working there and you suffer from a mental health condition, you may find issues in the workplace .

The WHO reports that the treatment gap – defined as the prevalence of mental illnesses versus the percentage of patients that get treatment – is currently over 70%, fuelled by a lack of personnel, poorly trained staff and a lack of state funding. The country has less than 4,000 mental health professionals, fewer than two psychiatrists for every 100,000 people, and it is clear that there is still a considerable disparity between the number of people needing treatment and the medical help available. In the public healthcare system, patients often end up seeing a psychiatrist for only a minute or two.

The new Mental Healthcare Act 2017 mandates that every citizen has the right to adequate treatment and says that insurance companies must cover mental health services. A number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been established to try to address the crisis in rural areas, for those who have to travel miles to see a psychiatrist or who have simply given up on the public provision for mental illness. Sangath in Goa, Mata Jai Kaur in Rajasthan and Anjali in Kolkata use lay counsellors and community health workers to reach affected populations, and provision for video conferencing calls for mental health is increasing, too.

As an expat in India, it is advisable not to rely on the public health system if you develop a mental illness, or if you know that you have a pre-existing condition. If you have private health insurance, check your policy to see whether mental health conditions are covered, and be aware that some policies may not cover pre-existing illnesses. Most people who can afford to do so will contact private providers.

Private mental health provision is much more common in urban areas of India, such as the Tulasi Psychiatric & Rehab Centre in Delhi, which specialises in treating psychiatric disorders and substance abuse. The Mind Research Foundation in Bangalore treats work-related and educational stress, and offers marital counselling. The Institute of Mental Health, Chennai, has been involved in Mental Health care for the past 200 + years. Founded in 1794 as an asylum, it has developed into an institute with enough beds for 1800 patients.

India has a reasonably wide range of private mental health institutions, and urban areas offer a number of private counselling practices, some of which specialise in areas such as depression. SAKSHAM in Janak Puri is a child and adolescent guidance clinic, and you will find provision in India in the private sector for child psychology and adolescent disorders, including eating disorders. This may be helpful if you are bringing your children with you to India. You will also be able to find treatment for sleep disorders. In Kolkata and other urban centres, you will also find practitioners of Rogerian or humanitarian therapy, if you wish to follow a Western psychological approach.

India has a reasonably wide range of private mental health institutions, and urban areas offer a number of private counselling practices.

Otherwise, India has a high level of alternative and traditional medicine: Ayurveda, yoga and other traditional practices, some of which are thousands of years old, are found throughout the country. You may wish to take advantage of these, especially in treating more minor health related issues. Herbalism can be useful in treating underlying physical conditions, and it is also said to be helpful in restoring mental balance when practised by a professional herbalist. Many of India’s traditional practices are designed to restore energy imbalances in the body and work with your chakras, which are the energy centres of the body in traditional Indian philosophy.

You will find these practices in alternative health clinics, but also in some mainstream hospitals, both in the public and the private sectors. Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, naturopathy, homeopathy and yoga are all recognised by the government of India (via the Central Council of Indian Medicine Act of 1970), and are all integrated into the national healthcare system. India has state hospitals and dispensaries for both traditional medicine and homeopathy.

In addition to the above, there are some everyday measures that you can take to safeguard your mental health. Making sure that you are eating properly, taking regular exercise (known to improve conditions such as depression), and monitoring your moods and emotions can all help keep you in good mental health. It may also be worth taking steps to minimise the negative effects of culture shock. You can do this by talking to other expats, and by ensuring that you are in contact with family and friends back home, so that you do not become isolated.

How Does Cancer Care In India Compare With The USA?

The quality of cancer care you are offered in India will depend on whether you are seeking treatment in the public or the private sector. Overall, cancer care in the USA is of a higher quality than oncological care in India, although expats should note that cancer treatment in some private clinics in India is specialised, undertaken by highly qualified personnel, and of a very high quality.India is a destination for medical tourism, and this includes oncological treatment, but there have been some high profile cases of Indian celebrities travelling to the States to undertake cancer treatment, rather than accessing the private sector at home.

Please read on to learn more about how cancer care in India compares with that in the USA.

Oncological treatment in the USA

If you need to seek cancer treatment in the US, and you are not eligible for Medicare or its sister program, Medicaid, you will need a health insurance policy that covers you for oncological treatment. Although this may be expensive, the care that you will receive will be of a high quality.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has conducted surveys which show that patients are very satisfied with their care in collaborative practice models. David Chan, at the UCLA Oncology Centre, told Forbes that overall survival rates for cancer are better in the USA than anywhere else in the world, due to the over-testing and aggressive treatment that results from hospitals fearing litigation from their patients. This is not the case for all types of cancer, however. For example, Japan has a better record for treating stomach cancer.

Chan further notes that new treatments, such as immunotherapy, are more widely available in the US than in nations that have budget-capped national health systems.

However, the US system is under strain, due to the insurance-based nature of American healthcare. Providers noted that payer pressures were at the top of their list of challenges, with oncology practices experiencing issues in day-to-day operations, often related to payment, reimbursement, and competition.

Pain management has also become an issue in the US in relation to oncological patients, because of the recent opioid crisis. Cancer survivors report that “anti-opioid sentiment can be pervasive and hurtful.”

India is a destination for medical tourism, and this includes oncological treatment, but there have been some high profile cases of Indian celebrities travelling to the States to undertake cancer treatment.

Oncological treatment in India

Public healthcare in India is currently subject to considerable pressures. Long waiting times, overstretched and underfunded facilities, a perception of poor patient outcomes and poorly trained medical personnel, particularly in rural areas, are all current problems. Take-up of the public scheme, even under national health insurance, is low, with many patients choosing to rely on traditional or over the counter remedies, or even choosing to just suffer through their ailments.

In saying this, the above limitations do not necessarily extend to oncological treatment. There are a number of state hospitals that specialise in cancer treatment. You can obtain free care at the following:

• Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai
• Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bangalore
• Tata Memorial Hospital, Kolkata
• Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram
• Cancer Care Foundation of India, Mumbai

The Tata Memorial Hospital, for example, has an Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC). It provides chemotherapy and radiology, plus ultrasounds, CT Scans, and MRIs, as well as real-time nuclear medicine scanning and PET Scans. The Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram has a Cancer Care for Life (CCL) scheme to gather funds for people with cancer.

The Cancer Care Foundation, which also has branches in Bangalore and Nasik, aims to provide alternative and complementary therapies. These include Ayurveda, yoga and cow urine therapy, along with dietary and nutritional consultations.

These institutions are state funded and aim to provide oncological care for those who cannot afford private treatment.

Overall, there are 27 state recognised cancer centres under the National Cancer Control Programme. In 2010, the Indian government launched a comprehensive National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases & Stroke (NPCDCS), and this spans several districts across 21 states in the county.

Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital has established a national cancer grid, which links all existing and proposed cancer centres, in an effort to provide coordinated treatment of uniform quality.

If you decide to seek private treatment, make sure that your current insurance covers this. Some policies may not include pre-existing conditions, so cover may depend on how recent your diagnosis is. Some insurers offer specific cancer plans, which may cover multiple treatments. Make sure you examine your policy carefully, as some types of cancer, such as skin cancer, may not be covered.

If you decide to use private medical treatment in India, check that your health insurance covers this, unless you are willing to pay out of pocket.

You can also pay out of pocket, but be aware that the costs can escalate rapidly. For instance, the average cost of treatment for breast cancer with a private practitioner would be in the region of Rs 500,000 to Rs 600,000 (US$6K to US$8K). This would include examination, surgery and radiotherapy. However, with targeted therapy, six cycles of chemotherapy can cost up to Rs 20,000,000 (US$27K). Some other costs are:

• Colon cancer treatment: around US$7K
• Gamma knife surgery for brain cancer: US$6K
• Prostate cancer surgery: US$9800
• Hysterectomy: US$5K
• Thyroid surgery: US$6K

Whilst these costs are significantly lower than in the US, they are still expensive. Therefore many expats opt for private health cover.

You will find a range of private hospitals across the country, and some of these specialise in oncological treatment, such as the Apollo Cancer Centre in Chennai. This centre has 300 beds, and offers advanced tertiary care in oncology, orthopedics, neurology and neurosurgery, head and neck surgery and reconstructive and plastic surgery. It also offers facilities to search for a potential unrelated donor, if necessary, and offers transplantations. It has a dedicated chemotherapy ward and a dedicated stem cell transplant unit.

India also has Healthcare Global Enterprises Ltd (HCG), which is their largest provider of cancer care, with a network of 23 comprehensive cancer centres, spread across India.

To conclude, oncological treatment in the USA is more advanced than that in India, but this is not to say that Indian oncological care is not comparable to that experienced in other Western nations, particularly in the private sector. Cancer treatment in the USA will cost significantly more than in India, although costs in the Indian private sector can still be expensive and ideally you should consider private health insurance.

How Much Do Health Procedures Cost In India?

India is fast becoming a major centre for medical tourism, due to the excellent standard of some clinics, for treatments such as dental implants, LASIK eye surgery and cosmetic surgery. Costs tend to be highly competitive in comparison to those in Western nations. Traditional forms of medicine are on offer, as well as allopathic treatments. We will look at some costs below.

State health insurance costs in India

The Indian healthcare system is one of the largest in the world, but around one million of the country’s citizens do not benefit from health coverage. The country spends around 1% of its GDP on healthcare, which, in global terms, is very low.

In 2014, an NSSO survey found that 80% of Indians did not have any health insurance cover. Only 18% (government funded 12%) of the urban population and 14% (government funded 13%) of the rural population were covered under any kind of health insurance.

There is technically a public healthcare system, but, in practice, most Indians end up using the private sector, in which quality can vary considerably.

How much does treatment cost in the public system?

If you are an employee and earning less than Rs 15,000 per month, you and your employer will have to make compulsory contributions into the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC). Contribution rates are set by law. You will then be eligible to access public healthcare.

The Indian public healthcare system is propped up by non government organisations (NGOs). It is free at the point of delivery for those who are below the poverty line. Government hospitals also offer care that is free at the point of delivery.

If you are an employee in India and earning less than Rs 15,000 per month, you and your employer will have to make compulsory contributions into the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC).

How much does treatment cost in the private sector?

For dental care, the average price in the UK for implants is around £2,000 per tooth, whereas dental implants in India cost around £170 to £500 per tooth. Some other costs are as follows:

• All-on-4 full implants (per arch): £4,500 – £6,000
• Veneers (per tooth): £30 – £150
• Crowns (per tooth): £50 – £200
• Root canal: £29 – £59

These are average costs, as specific costs will depend on which clinic you choose and its location. You may find procedures more expensive in some regions than in others.

Remember to check with your intended dental provider that they will accept your insurance, and check your policy to make sure that it covers planned care. It is also important to check which form of payment method your intended clinic prefers, as not all credit cards may be acceptable.

Average prices for other procedures are:

• Breast implants: Rs. 103151.00 – Rs. 152023.00 (£1072 – £1580)
• Cataract surgery: Rs. 24400.00 – Rs. 55000.00 (£253 – £570)
• Gastric bypass: Rs. 205714.00 – Rs. 496244.00 (£2138 – £5157)
• Heart valve replacement surgery: Rs. 241600.00 – Rs. 361716.00 (£2510 – £3759)
• Gastroscopy: Rs. 2088.00 – Rs. 12200.00 (£21 – £126)
• Knee replacement: Rs. 130429.00 – Rs. 306710.00 (£1355 – £3187)

Physiotherapy in India ranges from Rs 250 – Rs 1500 (£2.60 – £16) per session. A consultation with an osteopath will cost less than £40. A spinal rehab session will cost from £19 – £25. Back pain treatment ranges from £16 – £32.

LASIK eye correction surgery can cost as little as Rs 5,000 (£50) per eye to over £1000, depending on your chosen clinic.

Note that these are average prices, and procedures can cost a great deal more than this. Compared with those of Western nations, however, commentators often joke that Indian hospital and clinical costs seem to be ‘missing a zero.’ In private hospitals, such as Narayana, costs are comparatively very low and, with the advent of ‘Modicare,’ they are seeking to lower their costs yet further.

Make sure you check with your intended provider about insurance coverage and preferred methods of payment. You may find in some hospitals that you need to pay up front.

Traditional medicine is widely used in India, especially in rural areas, where 70% of the Indian population lives. You will find these practises in alternative health clinics, but also in some mainstream hospitals, both in the public and the private sectors. Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, naturopathy, homeopathy, and yoga are all recognized by the government of India (via the Central Council of Indian Medicine Act of 1970), and are all integrated into the national health care system. India has state hospitals and dispensaries for both traditional medicine and homeopathy, so you may wish to take advantage of these, in addition to more conventional Western treatments.

Again, prices will depend on the location of your treatment, but you should not find any form of traditional Indian medicine to be prohibitively expensive. The most expensive form of dara (oil) treatment can be found for £46 – £60. Massages are around the £16 – £50 mark. A month in an Ayurvedic hospital can be found quoted in the region of £700 – £800. Day rates in an Ayurveda resort cost around £46 – £70 per day. Shop around for competitive prices at yoga and Ayurveda resorts.

Traditional medicine is widely used in India, especially in rural areas.

If you sign up with an international health insurer, the cost of your policy will depend on factors such as your age and any pre-existing conditions, as well as the kind of package you opt for (obviously, a more expensive insurance package will give you a more extensive range of treatment and facilities).

As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance, it is very difficult to give accurate estimates without knowing the full details of the coverage required. As a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40-year-old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected. Were coverage to be expanded to include the US, then the premium could increase to almost double that amount.

Dental And Ophthalmic Care In India: How To Find The Right Options For You

If you are a resident in India, then even if you are covered by one of the country’s national insurance schemes, you will find that your options for both dental and ophthalmic treatment are very limited. Most expats in the country either rely on private health insurance, or pay out of pocket. However, India is a destination for medical tourism, including dental and optical treatment, as there are some excellent clinics available in the private sector.

How to register with a dentist

The Indian health authorities suggest that, when selecting a dentist, you should ask about their qualifications. Every dentist should have a Bachelors of Dental Surgery (BDS), and if they have a specialism they will have a Masters of Dental Surgery (MDS). It is standard practice for a patient to check the qualifications of their dentist.

Mumbai has some of the top dentistry colleges in India, as does Bengalaru (formerly Bangalore). Most urban centres in India have highly professional dental clinics.

To what extent does national insurance cover dentistry?

If you are eligible for Employees State Insurance (ESI or ESIC), covering organised private sector workers, you may be entitled to very basic treatment, although expats report that relatively few dental clinics accept ESI. It will not cover more advanced treatment, such as dental implants.

If you have been covered by ESI but have now retired, either due to age or work-related disability, you may apply for dentures.

The Indian government insists that dentists are regulated according to a training system with a minimum of five years of study. Dental colleges are regulated by the Dental Council of India. The organisation monitors, inspects, and licenses 32 government schools, as well as the 252 private colleges.

The Indian government insists that dentists are regulated according to a training system with a minimum of five years of study.

Accessing private dental treatment

As noted, most dental treatment that you are able to access in India will be in the private sector. Both expats resident in India, and those travelling to the country for the purpose of dental tourism, can take advantage of an excellent standard of care and some very competitive prices.

The average price in the UK for implants is around £2,000 per tooth, whereas dental implants in India cost around £170 – £500 per tooth. Some other costs are as follows:

• All-on-four full implants (per arch): £4,500 – £6,000
• Veneers (per tooth): £30 – £150
• Crowns (per tooth): £50 – £200

Remember to check with your intended dental provider whether they will accept your insurance, and check your policy to make sure that it covers any planned care. It is also important to check which form of payment method your intended clinic prefers, as it may be that not all credit cards are acceptable.

To what extent does national insurance cover optical care?

National insurance covers patients only for emergency care, although if you have been covered by ESI and have now retired, either due to age or work-related disability, you may also apply for spectacles under the national health scheme.

India has a large percentage of blind people, and the government has recognised that this is an issue. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the burden of blindness in India contributes to nearly 1/5 of the global blindness burden, mainly as a result of avoidable and treatable conditions, such as cataract and refractive errors.

‘Vision 2020: The Right to Sight – India’ has outlined the need to establish primary eye care units, ‘vision centres’, for every 50,000 people by 2020 at the level of community health centres and primary health centres under the ‘National Program for Control of Blindness’. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as the Aravind Eye Care System and the private sector, have also set up some models for primary eye care services. According to Aravind, about half of all India’s eye care is provided through NGOs.

Some experts say that India is making great strides in eye care and is becoming a model for high-quality, low-cost eye care. The country was, after all, the first in the world to establish a blindness control programme. Recent government initiatives have doubled the number of ophthalmologists trained each year and expanded treatment beyond cataracts to other areas of eye care, including support for children and patients with diabetic retinopathy. India operates on a cross-subsidisation model for eye care, in which fees from wealthier patients help cover the costs of treatment for low-income earners. Thus Aravind and other hospitals charge fees on a sliding scale according to how much a patient can afford.

The Indian Optometry Federation (IOF) and the Association of Schools and Colleges of India (ASCO) have together established a private, peer regulating Optometry Council of India, and optometrists are therefore regulated.

Some experts say that India is making great strides in eye care and is becoming a model for high-quality, low-cost eye care.

How to register with an optometrist in India

You should have little difficulty in finding an optometrist and/or optician in India. Organisations, such as the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), run vision centres in smaller communities, but there are plenty of eye care outlets in urban centres. You can ask colleagues or friends for recommendations, in addition to using the internet to research your options.

Accessing private eye treatment

If you are a resident in the country, you will need to access private eye care. India has a wide range of optometrists and private clinics, and it is a destination for eye surgery, such as LASIK treatment and cataract surgery. Check how up-to-date the equipment used in your chosen clinic is, however, as older equipment may result in lower costs, but may also be less reliable.

LASIK can cost as little as Rs 5,000 (£50) per eye to as much as over £1000.

You can also access treatment for retinal diseases (such as macular degeneration and detached retinas), cataracts, glaucoma, and corneal transplantation.

Complementary Therapies In India And How To Access Them

If you are going to India, whether to live or for a visit, you may wish to take advantage of the country’s ancient and established range of complementary therapies. India is home to many forms of alternative medicine and health practice, including:

• Ayurveda
• Yoga
• Unani
• Siddha
• Homeopathy
• HerbalismAyurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine based on the notion of balance within the body, which relies upon herbalism and yogic breathing. Siddha and Unani are similar, and they have a holistic approach that aims to promote harmony between the mind and body. Siddha, one of the oldest systems of medicine in India, has its origins in Tamil Nadu, while Unani can trace its roots back to ancient Greece. In Siddha, as in Ayurveda, everything in the universe, including the human body, is composed of the five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and sky.

Traditional medicine is widely used in India, especially in rural areas where 70% of the Indian population live. You will find these practices in alternative health clinics and some mainstream hospitals, both in the public and private sectors. Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, naturopathy, homeopathy, and yoga are all recognised by the Government of India, via the Central Council of Indian Medicine Act of 1970, and are all integrated into the national health care system. India has state hospitals and dispensaries for both traditional medicine and homeopathy, although the World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that traditional medicine and homeopathy are not always well integrated with allopathic medicine, particularly in allopathic hospitals.

In 1998, the WHO noted that more than 75% of beds in hospitals offering traditional treatment were occupied by patients receiving Ayurvedic treatment, and it states that this is the most common form of traditional medicine in India.

All of these therapies come under the Ministry of AYUSH, which is a government agency created in 2014 to improve access to and awareness of traditional methods. In 2014-15, India’s AYUSH industry was estimated to be worth around $2.4 billion, according to a 2018 report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

These traditional forms of healthcare are fuelling the country’s rise in medical tourism, with people coming to India not only to access conventional Western treatment in the nation’s private medical sector, but also to combine Western medicine with traditional treatment. The traditional medical industry is recognised by the government, as above, and traditional practitioners must be officially registered in order to practice. AYUSH has a number of private hospitals.

Medical tourism in India increases, as people go there not only to access conventional Western treatment in the nation’s private medical sector, but also to combine Western medicine with traditional treatment.

However, some Indian commentators feel that traditional medicine has, nonetheless, been neglected. This seems to be about to change, since a number of initiatives to promote AYUSH have recently been announced. AYUSH wings are to be set up in defence and railway hospitals; loans and subsidies are to be put forward for the establishment of private AYUSH hospitals and clinics; and institutes of excellence in teaching and research are to be built. Altogether, it is planned that 12,500 dedicated AYUSH health and wellness centres will be established under the Ayushman Bharat mission.

All of this means that, as an expat in India, you have multiple opportunities to take advantage of the country’s complementary therapies. Yoga holidays and retreats are a big part of India’s tourism and hospitality sector. Somatheeram Resort in Kerala is billed as the world’s first ‘Ayurveda Village.’ The resort offers, among other treatments:

• Rejuvenation therapy
• Panchakarma / detoxification / body purification
• Slimming
• Stress management
• Anti-ageing
• Beauty care
• Clinical treatments

Treatments on offer in other retreat centres include:

• Choornaswedana: commonly known as ‘the bundle massage’
• Naranga Kizhi: anti-inflammatory
• Pizhichil: said to strengthen immunity, lubricate the joints, liquefy toxins and increase flexibility
• Shirodhara: warm herbal oil is poured in an even stream onto the forehead
• Takradhara: medicated buttermilk is poured onto the forehead
• Udwarthana: deep, dry massage using herbal powders
• Janu Vasti: warm herbal oils are put over the affected area using black gram flour
• Talapodhichil: herbal head pack
• Mukh Lepa: a beauty ritual for Indian women; traditional herbs are used to cleanse, exfoliate, tone and finally hydrate

It should be noted that these are only some of the treatments used within Ayurveda and other systems of Indian medicine. You will find a huge range of choice when it comes to complementary treatments.

Yoga is also a major part of traditional practice, and there are many types, such as:

Pranayama
This is where the attention is on the breath (‘Pranayama’ literally means expansion of Prana (vitality)). Various techniques are said to rectify faulty patterns of breathing, remove blockages from your energy channels and promote relaxation.

Chakra Shuddhi
This is ‘purification of the energy/psychic centres’. This is one of the most important techniques of Kundalini Yoga and cleanses the chakra system through guided awareness and psychic mantras.

Antar Mouna or ‘Inner Silence’
This is a systematic meditational technique, which deepens the insight into the processes of the mind and develops skills to manage it. It is said to provide insight into mental tensions and emotional turbulence and helps towards inner understanding.

Trataka
This is candle meditation. It acts as a stepping-stone between physically oriented cleansing and meditation practices. It is claimed to improve memory and help to develop concentration and will power.

Chidakasha Dharana
This uses the faculty of visualization to gradually deepen awareness from the sensorial plane to subtle psychic and pranic dimensions

There are many other options available.

You will find a huge range of choice when it comes to complementary treatments in India.

Other retreats offer fitness packages in addition to complementary therapies, and can even tailor a meal plan for you. Vegetarian and vegan food is easy to find in India, since the country’s diet already includes many non-meat dishes, whichever region you are in.

You can use the internet to learn more about the wide range of complementary therapies available, and to find clinics and retreat centres that suit your specific requirements. Alternatively, you could ask expats whether they have any recommendations, or even your GP.

How To Apply For A Visa In India

If you are planning to visit India, whether as a tourist or as a potential expat, you will need to apply for a visa. Read on to learn more about the application process. Although the bureaucracy can be complex, it is not impossible to navigate.

Will I need a visa?

Citizens of most countries require a visa to enter India. There are some exceptions however. For example, if you hold a diplomatic passport, then you may be exempt. There are also exemptions for citizens from a few select countries, such as Bhutan and Nepal.

Otherwise, all foreign nationals entering India will need a valid international travel document, in the form of a passport, as well as either a valid visa from an Indian mission/post, or an e-visa from the Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs. The Indian government has now introduced one-month, one-year, and five-year electronic visas for citizens of most countries. The nature of your visa will depend on the purpose of your visit. The kinds of visa available include:

• Tourist visas
• Business visas
• Employment visas
• Intern visas
• Research visas
• Student visas
• Journalist visas
• Film visas

If you will be staying in India for less than 72 hours, you can obtain a transit visa. To secure this, you will need to be able to show that you have a confirmed airline booking for your onward journey when applying. Otherwise, you will need a tourist visa. How long your tourist visa lasts will depend on your nationality.

Citizens of the United States, Canada and Japan can apply for tourist visas that are valid for up to 10 years. Five-year tourist visas are increasingly becoming available for people from most nations in which biometric enrolment facilities are available. Otherwise, tourist visas are generally issued for three months, six months, or one year. They are usually multiple-entry.

Note that your visa will be valid from the date it is issued, not from the date you arrive in India.

Citizens of the United States, Canada and Japan can apply for tourist visas that are valid for up to 10 years.

How do I apply for an entry visa?

For an Indian tourist visa, you will need:

• A passport that is valid for at least six months, and which contains at least two blank pages
• A recent passport-size photo (currently this would be a square photo, two inches by two inches, but make sure you check the requirements when you apply, as they can change)
• Details of your itinerary

You may also need copies of your flight tickets and proof of your residential address.

You can apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), which is available for the citizens of over 40 countries, including those who are eligible to apply for a visa on arrival.

An application for an e-visa must be made at least four calendar days before you arrive in India, and it can be made up to 120 days in advance. The visa will be valid for one year from the date you arrive. You cannot exceed a 90-day limit on a continuous stay during each visit on an e-tourist visa, unless you are a citizen of Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom or the United States. If you have an e-business visa, you are allowed to stay for 180 days, irrespective of your nationality.

The e-visa has five sub-categories:

• e-Tourist visa
• e-Business visa
• e-Medical visa
• e-Medical attendant visa
• e-Conference visa

Your e-visa will be valid for 60 days from the date of your arrival in India, with a few exceptions. For example, if you have an e-conference visa, it will only be valid for 30 days from the date you arrive. Double-entry is permitted on the e-tourist visa and the e-business visa. Triple-entry is permitted on the e-medical visa and e-medical attendant visa. Only single-entry is permitted on the e-conference visa.

How much does it cost?

The cost of your visa will be between US$80 and US$100, depending on your nationality.

How long does it take?

It takes between five and 10 days to process a tourist visa. Turnaround on an e-visa is likely to be faster, as it is an online process, but you should leave plenty of time for processing.

What will I need to apply for a work visa?

People working in engineering, education, medicine, technical industries, accounting and the legal sector are likely to have the highest chance of success in getting a work visa. You are also likely to be successful if you work for an international company that has a branch in India, and are planning to be transferred.

People working in engineering, education, medicine, technical industries, accounting and the legal sector have the best of securing a work visa.

The Indian government states that you will stand the best chance of being successful in your visa application if:

• You are highly skilled and working at a senior level (a visa will not be granted for clerical or secretarial work, for example)
• There is not a qualified Indian who could do your prospective job
• You are earning over $25K a year (there are some exceptions to this, for example for translators and some teaching staff)

The company must be either registered in India or be an international company undertaking work in the country, and they must be clearly stipulated in your visa. You must comply with all legal requirements, such as paying tax. You will also need a sponsor – this does not necessarily have to be your employer, but they will be the one responsible for your conduct while you are in India.

You will need to supply the following documentation:

• Your passport (this must be valid for at least a year and contain three blank pages)
• A copy of your passport’s first pages
• Your visa application form
• An additional work visa application form (which can be downloaded on India Visa Online)
• Your employment contract (this must be written in English and must refer to the duration and conditions of your contract)
• Your resume (in English)
• Tax liability details
• Copies of your diplomas and qualifications
• A copy of your employer’s registration certificate

Your visa may be for the duration of one year, regardless of the length of time of your actual contract, but if necessary you can extend this for five years by applying to the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FFRO).

Bringing a pet into India

To take your pet into India, you will need a No Objection Certificate (NOC), which can be issued by the Animal Quarantine and Certificate Station (AQCS) in India. This must be obtained from a quarantine centre in India 15 days before your arrival.

How To Find A Job In India

India is a fascinating but challenging country in which to find work and your success in doing so as an expat will very much depend on the sector in which you specialize. People working in engineering, education, medicine, technical industries, accounting and legal work are likely to have the highest chance of success and to be granted a work visa. If you already work for an international company which has a branch in India, and would like to be transferred, this is also a possible option.The Indian government state that you will stand the best chance of being successful in your visa application if:

• you are highly skilled and working at a senior level (a visa will not be granted for clerical or secretarial work, for example)
• there is not a qualified Indian who could do your prospective job
• the company must be either registered in India or is an international company undertaking work in the country
• you must be earning over $25K a year (there are some exceptions to this, for example translators and some teaching staff)
• you must comply with all legal requirements, such as paying tax
• your company must be clearly stipulated in the visa
• you will need a sponsor (this does not necessarily have to be your employer)
however, your company is responsible for your conduct while you are in India

You will need to supply the following documentation:

• passport (valid for at least a year and contain three blank pages)
• copy of your passport’s first pages
• visa application form
• additional work visa application form (to be downloaded on Indian Visa Online)
• your employment contract, written in English and referring to the duration and conditions of the contract
• your resume (in English)
• tax liability details
• copies of your diplomas and qualifications
• a copy of your employer’s registration certificate

Your visa may be for the duration of one year, regardless of the length of time of the actual contract, but it can if necessary be extended for 5 years by the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FFRO).

It is possible to have your visa extended for five years.

As above, workers in senior management or highly skilled employees in specific sectors are likely to continue to be in demand. You will not need to be bilingual in any of the main Indian languages (although this will be appreciated): the main business language of India remains English, a legacy of the Raj.

However, this also means that teaching English (TEFL) is not as much in demand as it is in other countries, although the British Council runs a programme, Teach India, with a number of educational institutions. Places are said to be very competitive but if you have a degree, a TEFL qualification, and experience, this should stand you in good stead.

You may also be able to procure a short-term internship, for instance, in a STEM sector.

Major industries are:

• agriculture
• mining
• chemicals
• tourism
• construction
• food processing
• information technology (IT)
• machinery
• the auto industry
• petroleum
• steel
• textiles

Some of the coastal areas have vacancies in the hospitality industry and summer jobs – for example, in camps for children or conservation projects. A large number of jobs are available in the northern cities, but Bengaluru in the south has seen a tech boom in recent years.

Working hours are capped at 48 hours per week and 9 hours a day, although some expats warn that there are companies which flout this, preferring to pay the fine rather than stick to the existing legislation, particularly in white collar industries (factories are held more closely to the law). A one-hour lunch break is typical for an 8 hour day.

The minimum wage from 2020 is expected to be in the region of 160IR (€2.09) per day, somewhat down from the 178IR (€2.25) legislated for in the recent overhaul of the wage system and the establishment of a minimum wage.

Some sectors, such as tech, have seen recent growth

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act of 2017 has increased the duration of paid maternity leave from an existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. You will be eligible on full pay if you have been working for a company for 80 days in the year prior to delivery. It is estimated, however, that this only benefits around 1% of working Indian women. As an expat, especially if you work for an international company, you can expect to earn more and also be able to claim maternity benefit.

Your spouse will be able to work if they are able to obtain a separate work permit. If both of you are professional and of a senior status, or have specialist skills, then it should be possible.

Note that if you bring your dependents into the country on the basis of employment, they will be issued with an X-visa with the same expiration date as your employment visa. If your spouse comes in on an X-visa, and then wishes to take up employment, they will need to leave the country and apply for an employment visa.

Note, too, that an employment visa and a business visa are different documents: the latter will be applied if you are coming in and out of India for business reasons.

Job Vacancies

Websites and the local press are good sources of information, but depending on your sector, you can also use international recruitment agencies as well. If you are on the ground in India, networking and word of mouth remain helpful when it comes to vacancies.

You can also make speculative applications to companies.

Applying For A Job

A standard CV/resume is recommended: most applications can be made online, after which you will be asked to attend an interview if a prospective employer wishes to take this to another stage.

Under Article 14 of Indian law, discrimination is outlawed on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth. In practice, however, inequalities remain within the country. Women, for instance, are paid significantly less than their male counterparts so do not be surprised if you encounter institutionalized sexism.

Qualifications And Training

You will stand a significantly better chance of gaining employment in India if you are at a senior or specialist level. Qualifications are highly regarded in the country and it is recommended that you send full details when applying for work. You may also wish to have your qualifications apostilled.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

What Jobs Are Available For Expats In India?

Everyone who enters India must arrive using the correct visa for the purpose of their visit and their intended length of stay. Migrants are allowed to work in India, but only if they have an employment visa (known as the E visa).In order to obtain an employment visa, you need to make a formal application, pay the non-refundable application fee and provide all required supporting documentation. Ideally, this would be done via the Indian Embassy in your home country before you arrive in India.

Employment visas are only issued for jobs which have a salary in excess of $25,000 per year, and which require a high level of specialist skill and expertise. For example, this means that a doctor or a senior manager would be accepted subject to all conditions being met, whilst an administrator would not.

What Types Of Jobs Are There In India?

The Expat Focus article ‘Moving To Bangalore? Learn What Makes It Such A Great Expat Destination’ explains that the city offers job opportunities in the fields of accent training in call centers, translation, real estate, banking, biotechnology, aviation, animation, gaming and automotive manufacturing. There are plenty of companies in Bangalore that employ expats in management positions.

The better paid jobs – for which you will need your Employment visa – will be located in cities. They may involve travel to rural areas depending on your specific job role, but cities are where head offices and major facilities are located.

A second Expat Focus article, ‘Will India's Smart Cities Plans Bring More Expats To The Country?’, discusses India’s Smart Cities development plan, which hopes to modernise 100 mid-size and satellite cities across the nation with modern infrastructure and technology at its heart. Expertise in everything from water and sewerage systems to clean energy and transport design will be in demand.

Teaching Jobs In India

There is demand for English teachers in India. However, if you don’t have teaching qualifications, you will find it difficult to secure paid work. Instead, a number of companies can place you in volunteer roles, although payment from you is typically required for these positions. The website Go Overseas lists a number of examples of these projects.

International Schools in India are popular. They employ a mix of Indian and international staff, who are paid for their services, and may have their accommodation arranged by the school.

To be employed by the school, you need to hold good general qualifications and be a qualified teacher. Some school vacancies are filled through job recruitment companies, while other schools will recruit from the applications sent direct to the headteacher.

Other Aspects To Consider

Before heading off to an exciting opportunity in India, consider the kind of environment you want to live in and any other issues that will affect your quality of life there.

Canadians Deborah, Jon and Myles moved from their expat home in London out to Bangalore. They told ExpatFocus about their reasons for moving, demonstrating the importance of family and friends in the decision to relocate.

“Deborah had been director of a campaigning charity in London and was looking for more opportunities to build something ‘on the ground’ rather than fighting politicians. Jon had recently received an MA in Creative Writing and was craving time to write on a full-time basis. Myles was old enough to appreciate living abroad and young enough to move without too many home ties.

“We chose Bangalore (after many other considerations) because it offered Deborah the most opportunities and was affordable enough to allow Jon to write. Also, we have a very good friend here who made our transition much smoother than it would otherwise have been.”

Eli, an expat from Norway, moved to Mumbai with her teenage children so her husband could take up a job there. The company helped them with many practical aspects, such as finding an apartment. However, Eli told ExpatFocus that finding a new set of interests was important to her as she suddenly became a spouse without a job.

“For me, leaving behind a life where I worked full time, to being ‘just’ an expat wife and mum was a huge change of scenery. However, there are a lot of activities to join in in Mumbai, and it is an exciting city to explore. The difference between rich and poor is huge, and that reflects my life here. I am a volunteer in an NGO and work with education for kids from low-income families, and I also do activities like yoga, writing, tours, dancing and so on.”

Elizabeth Huesing moved to Chennai following a visit to an ashram in Southern India. As a divorced mother of two who had travelled widely, finding a job that financially supported her but also allowed her to strengthen her spiritual path was the key aim. However, hers was a move that also brought a surprising and romantic result.

“I am a former suburban soccer mom and technical writer from Boulder, Colorado who has plunged headfirst into a dizzying new life and high-tech career in the chaotic city of Chennai, but I am managing to keep one foot in the ashram that brought me here in the first place.

“I have also met and married my new husband, who is British, writes books on Indian saints and has lived near the ashram I initially visited for the past 36 years.”

These real-life expat experiences in India are a good reminder that seeking work is only part of the equation. Work brings in income, and the right job will strengthen your skill set and CV. However, have a think about what your overall aims are, and how all the other members of your family will be affected. If you understand what you are looking for, you have a better chance of your new job and life working out well.

Understand Local Etiquette

In some Indian states, you can face a prison sentence of up to 10 years for the possession or consumption of alcohol. Others allow expats and non-resident Indians to buy a 30-day alcohol license.

Furthermore, alcohol often cannot be sold during elections, major religious festivals and national holidays.

This means that you shouldn’t assume that all your colleagues or employees want to enjoy a drink after work, or that a bottle of wine is the best gift when attending a private dinner party. Even if the household is not Muslim, the consumption of alcohol is not to be assumed.

Recreational drugs are illegal in India. If you are caught in possession of a small quantity for personal use, you will spend at least six months in an Indian jail cell. For a larger amount, you will face up to 10 years in prison. To make matters worse, you could spend years in detention before your case even gets to court. Your case will not be fast-tracked, or the sentence reduced, just because you are a migrant or the important employee of an Indian company. At the end of your sentence, you would be immediately deported.

Homosexuality has recently been decriminalised in India. However, many people still hold conservative values, especially outside the big cities.

You might join a group of colleagues on a trip to the cinema one evening as part of a work social outing. Since November 2016, it has been a legal requirement for every cinema to play the national anthem at the end of each film screening. All members of the audience will stand when this happens, so don’t get caught out sitting down!

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Moving to India? Here Are Ten Street Foods You Should Try

The street food of India is internationally famous. You can get a little taste of its flavours in marketplaces from the UK to South Africa. Increasingly, you don’t even have to find a street vendor to try it, with indoor street food restaurants popping up everywhere.But for the true gourmet hunting authentic culinary experiences, the only place to go for the real deal is of course India.

Street food is a national institution in India. Cheap, plentiful, and hugely varied, for many locals it forms the basis of their daily diet. From substantial meals to light snacks, your street food vendors can satisfy your hunger at any time of day, and into the night.

So if you’re moving to India, trying out your local street food is an absolute must. What you’ll find is as varied as the regions of India. Local culture, climate, ethnicities, and history influence the type of food you’ll find, the spices that are used, and the meats and vegetables that form the basis of your meal.

With so much diversity, the range of options can be bewildering. If you do take a stroll around the street markets, you might not know what you’re looking at, what’s in it, or if you’ll like it.

But don’t worry about not liking it. If you find it’s not to your taste, you can just try something else. As for the rest, here are some top tips to get you started.

Pav Bhaji

Originally conceived as a quick, satisfying lunch in Mumbai, Pav Bhaji is now served all over India. While you can find it in restaurants, eating this thick, creamy vegetable curry from a street food cart will be far more satisfying, not least because you’ll get to watch it being made.

There are a whole range of variations of Pav Bhaji available, but all of them start from a foundation of mashed up vegetables, cooked in plenty of butter, served with a buttered bread roll.

Cooked on an enormous flat griddle, or ‘tava’, it starts with rough chopped vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peas and onions are a common base. Next comes a thick, spiced gravy, and then the mashing begins. Butter is added to the mix as it cooks.

Finally, a last dollop of butter will be melted onto the tava, and then soaked up with fresh soft white rolls.

Hyderabadi Haleem

Haleem is a unique dish with a long history. Deriving from an Arabian dish called Harees, it was introduced to the Hyderabad region in the Mughal period. Hyderabad Haleem is now world famous, and during the month of Ramadan it is transported all over the world through a special courier service.

So if you’re in Hyderabad, trying out the local Haleem is an absolute must.

© Guilhem Vellut on Flickr

What goes into your Haleem will vary, but it is always based on a mixture of wheat, barley, meat, lentils, and spices. Slow cooked for seven to eight hours, these ingredients all combine to form a thick, gooey stew with a paste-like consistency.

It might not sound appetising, but the flavour is truly unique, and makes for a filling, hearty meal. Loaded with spices such as turmeric, garlic, cumin, caraway seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, saffron, pepper, and allspice, then topped off with a spicy ghee-based gravy, pieces of lime, coriander, and fried onions, there really is nothing else like it.

Seem Baal

Seem Baal is a sweet snack made from milk. Also known as Junnu, Posa, Ginnu, and Kharvas, its name may change from place to place, but the result is very similar.

Seem Baal is made from colostrum milk, the first milk of a lactating cow. It looks like a solid, creamy cake, and has a jelly-like consistency. The street vendor will cut small cubes for you to eat.

Sweet and spiced, it is reminiscent of sweetened condensed milk. Unsurprisingly. it is very popular with children.

You can’t make a meal out of Seem Baal, but it serves as an excellent quick snack, and a gateway to traditional Indian sweets.

Masala Dosa

A southern specialty, Masala Dosa can be found in the Tiffin street-side snack stalls scattered throughout all India. The locals will line up for a good Masala Dosa, so looking out for a queue is one way to spot a good stall.

The recipe will vary from city to city and stall to stall, but the essence is the same. The dosa is made from a batter of lentils and rice, soaked overnight and then ground into a batter. This is cooked into a crepe, then stuffed with boiled potatoes seasoned with mustard seeds. It is then fried until crispy and then topped with coriander, coconut and lime.

For an added bonus, you can have it with cheese.

Packed with flavour, Masala Dosa might just become your regular go-to street snack.

Chole Bhature

A Punjabi specialty, Chole Bhature is a combination of a spicy chick pea chana masala (chole), and fried Indian bread (bhature). It might be a far cry from a croissant or a bagel, but if you’re out looking for breakfast in Delhi, look no further.

© Kanikatwl on Wikipedia

Chole is made on a chick pea base, with cashews, tomatoes, onion, and plenty of garlic. Add in an array of spices from turmeric to chilli, cinnamon to cumin, and you’ve got the tastiest breakfast curry you’ll ever find.

This is served up in perfect combination with a bhature, topped with fried onions.

Tunday Kabab

There is a lot of food in India to satisfy vegetarians, but there’s plenty out there for entrenched carnivores, too. In Lucknow, the meat of choice is the Tunday Kebab.

The Tunday Kabab has a storied history, going back to a Nawab (royal family member) who adored kababs, but was unfortunate enough to lose all his teeth to age. Unable to eat his favourite food, he announced an impressive reward would be offered to whoever could cook for him the softest, most succulent kabab.

In stepped Haji Murad Ali, with a flat patty kabab so soft and juicy that it will fall apart in your fingers as you eat it. He was a one-handed man, in Hindi a ‘tunday’, and so the nickname stuck to his famous creation.

The secret recipe is said to include 160 spices, passed down by generations of ladies of the house.

Whether the story is exaggeration, fabrication, or truth, the results are tasty and must be sampled.

Raj Kachori

There are as many varieties of Kachori as there are cities in India. Usually they take the form of a round, flattened ball made of fine flour, stuffed with anything from baked Urad Dal, to onion and coconut. There are even sweet versions dipped in sugar syrup.

Hailing from the land of the royals, Rajasthan, this is the king of all Kachori. Raj Kachori is a crunchy ball, stuffed with a delicious combination of spiced potatoes, moong dal, peas, and grains, topped with curd, sweet and spicy chutneys, pomegranate seeds, and crunchy sev.

© Puneet vivid on Wikipedia

Incredibly tasty and popular with locals and tourists alike, Raj Kachori is not only a delicious snack, it is also one of the more beautiful street foods you’ll find.

Vada Pav

The Vada Pav is a burger, Indian style. It might not hit the same spot as that perfect beef patty and tomato relish combination, but it might just become your new go-to comfort food.

Best enjoyed from roadside stalls in Mumbai, it is hugely popular with locals, from students to businessmen. The patty, or ‘vada’, is a spiced potato filling, deep fried, then wrapped in sweetened bread. Top it off with a sweet, hot, garlic chutney.

It might not sound like much, but this double-carb treat is moreishly tasty and will keep you coming back for more.

Pani Puri

India can be hot. Very hot. And so is a lot of Indian street food. Fried, boiled, stewed, and baked. Spiced with mustard or chilli, sometimes it might start to feel like you’re breathing fire.

But Pani Puri is here to help. A unique Indian snack, perfect for those long, hot summer days, it’s like a crunchy water bomb.

It starts with a crispy Puri. Your vendor will punch a small hole in the top, then fill it up with tamarind chutney, potatoes, onions, and chick peas.

The Puri is then filled up with Pani, minty flavoured water.

The result is a refreshing snack that is sweet, spicy, and cooling all at once.

Masala Chai

You may have drunk chai in your home country. It might have come in a tea bag, or perhaps your local coffee chain does a chai latte.

© Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

But you haven’t tasted real chai until you’ve tried it in India. You can get Masala Chai from street vendors all over India. Sweet and milky, it is heavily spiced with cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves and ginger. And, of course, black tea.

Masala Chai is particularly popular during winter and the monsoon season, as it is believed to help keep the body warm and clear blocked sinuses. Street side chah wallahs will ladle it with a flourish into a small cup from a big steaming kettle. You can drink it hot and fresh right at the stall, a perfect pick-me-up on a cold day.

Article by Andy Scofield, Expat Focus International Features Writer

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